“I prefer go”: English L2 Verb Complement Errors Mary Lou Vercellotti, University of Pittsburgh Nel de Jong, Queens College of CUNY Abstract Analysis Infinitival and gerundive verb complements can pose difficulties for L2 learners because English verbs vary on which type of complement they require or allow. Some take only a gerund (I enjoy walking) or an infinitive (I want to walk) while others allow both forms (I like walking/to walk.). With no straightforward “rule” to apply, English L2 learners must memorize each individual verb with the acceptable verb complement(s). This poster describes the use and accuracy of verb complements in over 200 minutes of recorded speech from a training task in which students spoke about a given topic three times (Nation, 1989). Participants were 23 high-intermediate students in an intensive English program in a large university. They had explicit knowledge of verb complements from their regular language classes, but the instruction in this study was implicit, since no instruction was given to produce or to attend to the target structure. Verbs that could take both structures were the most common (67.4%) but the least accurate. It appears the students had more difficulty choosing which verb complement form to use when both were allowed. This suggests that the variability of input impedes acquisition. As a result, students often produced only the base form of the verb complement (* I like walk), which accounted for 72% of the errors in this category. It is argued that the students were not always able to apply their explicit knowledge correctly in a spontaneous production task. Verb Complement Forms Produced Introduction 10% 33% 3% Gerund (n =177) Infinitive (n = 294) * to V -ing (n = 15) 54% * Neither (n = 55) • Students produced more infinitival than gerundival verb complements. • 13% of verb complements were ambiguously produced Accuracy in Verb Complement Structures English Verb Complement Structure • Some matrix verbs only allow a gerund I enjoy watching • Some matrix verbs only allow an infinitive I want to study • Some matrix verbs allow variation I like playing / to play Accuracy by Matrix Verb Requirement 55 Incorrect Correct 21 Previous explicit verb complement instruction in grammar class. • Verbs were grouped by acceptable verb complements verb + infinitives verb + gerund OR infinitive My friend agreed to go hiking I can’t stand waiting in line, = with me. I can’t stand to wait in line. begin, continue, hate, like, love, prefer, start • There is a high frequency of learner-centered matrix verbs that can take verb complements in the speaking class textbook series, especially considering the low number of verbs (Juffs, 1998). • Students have exercises to fill in the correct form (gerund or infinitive) for the given matrix verb. Data was collected during a production task in which students spoke of a topic for 4 minutes, then again in 3 minutes, and then in 2 minutes (Nation, 1989). • No instruction given to produce or attend to verb complement structure. • This production task is assumed to require implicit knowledge. • Students gave 3 speeches per session x 3 sessions in one month Nominative non-finite verb complements were analyzed. Can these English L2 learners spontaneously produce correct verb complement structures? Are errors a result of the idiosyncratic requirement of the matrix verb? • The number of verb complements were topic dependent; a comparison between topic/session is not relevant. • The students’ mean accuracy average was 82.2% (s.d.12%) • Few instances of variation of structure from recording to recording within one activity; repetition did not seem to affect accuracy. • Few instances of on-line corrections of the verb complement • Two corrections (ex. like stay [*], like to stay) • Four incorrect (ex. I like to do, do it myself , to doing [*] it myself) Gerund w/ error Infinitive w/ error Both to V -ing Neither 15 Participants – 23 high-intermediate English L2 (mixed L1) students Results 19% 1 Methods appreciate, avoid, dislike, enjoy, agree, appear, can(‘t) afford, keep (don’t) mind, miss, practice decide, learn, mean, offer, plan, refuse, seem, volunteer, wait 297 131 Gerund Only verb + gerund I enjoy watching old movies. 2% 7% 72% Historical language change with gerundives increasing (Fanego, 2004) • with infinitive entrenchment of collocations (esp. emotive verbs) The verb complement structure is also difficult because • Gerundival –ing has the same form as progressive –ing • Infinitival to has the same form (and historical meaning) as the preposition to (Duffley, 2000). Variable Verb Complement Errors Infinitive Only Variable • Matrix verbs that allow either form were most common and had the most errors (85% accuracy) • When either form is allowed, the most common error was producing only the root verb with neither morpheme (n =39) • Two-thirds of the errors for the infinitive only matrix verbs was producing only the root verb (n=14). Conclusions • Errors were not often a result of a mismatch between matrix verb and verb complement. • The most common error overall was producing only the root in the verb complement, with neither the infinitival to marker nor the gerundival -ing. • These findings suggest that • the students could not always apply their explicit knowledge of verb complement structure during this production task, which indicates that this structure has not been fully proceduralized (DeKeyser, 1997) • the variation may impede acquisition • the increased processing demands of the verb complement structure may result in a lack of production of the grammatical markings (to and –ing) • teachers may want to focus more instruction on verb complement structure as the forms are shared with the preposition to and the progressive –ing. • Follow-up analysis will include the number and length of pauses around the verb complement structure as a measure of monitoring and possible reliance of explicit knowledge. References DeKeyser, R. M. (1997). Beyond explicit rule learning: Automatizing second language morphosyntax. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 19, 195221. Duffley, P. (2000). Gerund versus infinitive as complement of transitive verbs in English: The problems of “tense” and “control. Journal of English Linguistics 28, 221-248. Fanego, T. (2004). Is cognitive grammar a usage-based model? Toward a realistic account of English sentential complements. Miscelanea: A journal of English and American studies 29. 23-58. Juffs, A. (1998). The acquisition of semantics-syntax correspondences and verb frequencies in ESL materials. Language Teaching Research 2, 2, 93-123. Nation, P. (1989). Improving speaking fluency. System, 17, 377-384. Acknowledgement Funding for this research is provided by the National Science Foundation, Grant Number SBE-0354420 to the Pittsburgh Science of Learning Center (PSLC, http://www.learnlab.org).